Friday, May 29, 2015

Hard decisions awaiting Buhari

Posted By: Oluwaseun Ogunshola - 11:15 AM


& Comment

Buhari handover

The country that Muhammadu Buhari takes control of today, in the estimation of some, has literally fallen under. It is a country where the primary ingredients of a functional state are in many cases in immeasurable deficit to the harrowing plight of the citizenry.
With all indices of human capital development indicating that the country hardly spent its huge income to bring about quality life for its over 170 million people, Nigeria is once again at a crossroads.
Interestingly, that fact was not lost on Buhari, who had variously conceded that he would be leading a nation of altered dreams and wasted journeys.
The political challenges
The challenges facing the new government are not limited to the inherited governance issues being left behind by the just exited administration. The Buhari administration is also going to grapple with the political challenges of managing its success and one of the immediate challenges before it is on how to grapple with the division among the leaders of the All Progressives Congress, APC on the emergence of the new presiding officers of the National Assembly.handover
It is not difficult to forget that the difficulties of the Jonathan administration were partly rooted in the emergence of Speaker Aminu Tambuwal against the permutations of the president and his party.
Perennial challenges
The enormity of the challenges is such that miracles are being expected from the man, whose electoral victory was a product of general resentment towards an administration that was largely perceived as irresponsive to the issues.
In spite of the fact that the prospects of surprises had been dashed by Buhari, who after a thorough appraisal of the Nigerian situation cautioned against such, analysts have outlined some critical spheres of the nation’s life in need of urgent attention.
The areas include; backlog of unpaid salaries, perennial fuel scarcity, fuel subsidy regime, cost of governance, size of government, review of power sector privatisation, institutionalised corruption, security votes, alleged missing oil money, national reconciliation, the Niger Delta question, insurgency, and general insecurity.
An early and as well pragmatic approach to these national challenges could go a long way in defining the direction of the new administration.
Backlog of unpaid salaries

Though the practice of not paying salaries is endemic in Nigeria’s public and private sectors, the matter is now at an alarming rate following the slump in oil prices.
Of the country’s predominantly 36 unviable states, 22 have not been able to meet their financial obligations to civil servants for months following shortfalls in federal allocations.
So pathetic are the attendant effects on federal and state workers that many want payment of salaries to top Buhari’s agenda.
The extremity of the situation came to the fore during the last May Day celebration, as government workers in some parts of the country openly grumbled at the parade ground over the lengthening delay in the payment of their entitlements.
Therefore, for Buhari’s government to hit the ground running, hard decisions that would result in generating the needed funds for this purpose must be made urgently.
Buhari is particularly expected to get the incoming and re-elected governors into prioritising the need for regenerative sources of revenue in view of the current financial crisis.
Perennial fuel scarcity
The re-emergence of fuel scarcity in Africa’s largest oil producing nation at this time, no doubt has compounded the myriad of challenges for the new government.
Since February this year, Nigeria’s struggling population has faced acute fuel crisis resulting in increase in the price of goods and services.
The fact that most homes depend on petroleum as a result of unsteady power supply underscores the agony of Nigerians at this time.
Across the country, the product currently sells betwee N150 and N300 per litre, representing over 60 and 100 percent above the official rate of N87.
Despite promises by the Goodluck Jonathan administration that the country would be flooded with petrol, the situation is deteriorating on a daily basis with people finding it increasingly difficult to buy the commodity.
Fuel subsidy regime
The new government will have to frontally address the issue of fuel subsidy which is reportedly at the centre of the crisis in the supply of fuel products. Given the general upheaval that attended the last effort by the Jonathan administration to remove the alleged subsidy in January, 2012, President Buhari is bound to be in a catch 22 situation. While it is a given fact that the subsidy regime is polluted with fraud, it is also a fact that Nigerians do not want to pay astronomical prices for the product.
Cost of governance
Buhari’s determination to force the cost of governance is not an issue with many. What, however, is of concern is the resistance of those who have been used to the system to adapt with his moves.
At a pre-election summit with governors of his party, Buhari had urged them to address the exorbitant pension scheme that many Houses of Assembly had passed for their governors and speakers.
The Buhari administration is also expected to cut down on the number of aides and ministers, but one challenge the president would face is the constitutional requirement that requires each state to produce at least one minister.
Apart from that, the ministries reportedly have about 400 parastatals. The ministries with the highest numbers are Health, 77; Science and Technology, 40; Education, 41; Agriculture, 44; Power and Steel, 27 agencies. The worsening nature of the current financial quagmire is such that Buhari’s government can’t but review this age-long practice of servicing profligacy.
However, in doing this, the new administration would need to draw blood in shedding body weight which would entail reduction in the number of staff, an action that would in the immediate future draw ill-wind from those affected and the labour unions.
Alleged missing oil/NNPC probe
Even without being persuaded Buhari has calmed fears that the allegation of missing oil money may be swept under the carpet.
He specifically vowed to investigate the 20 billion dollars allegedly missing from coffers of NNPC, with the view of bringing anyone found wanting to book.
With that came sighs of relief from Nigerians, who had thought that the matter would receive the kind of attention it got under President Jonathan.
Mallam Sanusi had last year accused the NNPC of not accounting for $49.8billion oil money. He later reviewed the sum to $20 billion after a reconciliation of the figure by the NNPC, the Federal Ministry of Finance and other government agencies. Aside the probe, many are expectant that other activities of the NNPC would be urgently looked into in order to reposition the corporation and as well restore public confidence.
Institutionalised corruption
Given that most of the challenges to be inherited by the Buhari administration were brought about by corruption, there is hardly any surprise in the urgency to curb the menace. Buhari himself had alluded to this during the campaign with his famous quote that “If we don’t kill corruption this corruption will kill us.” Among the most challenging issues on corruption that Nigerians would be expecting the new administration to tackle are the allegations of a missing $20 billion from the Federation Account, the subsidy funding scheme, among many others.
The security chiefs of former President Goodluck Jonathan had given the assurance that they would find the secondary school girls captured from Chibok before handing over to the new administration. However, as at press time the school girls were yet to be rescued even as the Boko Haram group has continued to rear its head here and there. Hence, insecurity is another challenge that the Buhari administration would have to put at the front burner in its efforts at restoring normalcy to the land.
National healing
The election left the country almost divided with the majority of the South-South and the Southeast almost left out of the Buhari phenomenon that squashed out the first South-South president of the country. Though a democratic expression, the new administration would have to address concerns of the people of the two regions who may feel apprehensive over their marginalisation in the government that took office today.

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